Thursday, 21 April 2011

Triple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Screamin', Journeyin' and Rollin'...

Scream 4:
The original Scream came out when I was around about 12 or 13, so I saw it on rental VHS, and at first I really enjoyed it - indeed, I was fairly new to the horror genre (although the Scream franchise has always been more thrillers than horrors) - but then I came to resent the franchise after the sequel (which I also enjoyed initially). However, I was actually resenting the fallout from Scream - the dreadful copycats and how there were no horror movies anymore, only gory thrillers. Then Scream 3 came out and it had descended into self-parody and it didn't have anything to say anymore and indeed it had quickly become old hat.

Now, more than a decade later, we have Scream 4 - and the good news is that the Scream franchise finally has something worthwhile saying again. Inspired by an endless succession of remakes, reboots, and the derisively-termed "torture porn" movement, Scream 4 still isn't all that scary - it's still more a murder mystery thriller than anything else - but it takes its trademark meta-smarts to entirely new levels, best summed-up by the opening pre-title sequence.

There's perhaps too many characters thrown into the mix - the original trilogy survivors, the new kids on the block, a succession of new cops, and a handful of side roles - but even still, the sense of re-invigoration permeates each successive act of the script. On the down side though, I had a little trouble with the final act reveal - for me, there needed to be not only more exploration of motive, but a certain key player couldn't quite sell their character's about-turn. Furthermore some of the red herrings are a little undercooked and/or overplayed, and some of the smaller roles lack enough screen time to really make an impact that's anything beyond fleeting.

However, there are plenty of knowing, self-aware gags along the way - yet amazingly, it doesn't become eye-rollingly dull or predictable - it's an entertaining ride and it really benefits from the nostalgia factor, and more than a decade of development in the horror genre, upon which it could structure its motivations.

Is a fifth, and even sixth, movie necessary however? I really don't know ... it might be best to leave the franchise on a high note, rather than end up closing a second trilogy with another Scream 3, you know?

The Darjeeling Limited:
Quite recently I'd never seen a Wes Anderson movie before - now I've seen four of his flicks - and they've all been wonderfully quirky and idiosyncratic works that have satisfied me from start-to-finish. This spiritual journey of three disconnected brothers through India retains all of Anderson's charm and unique outlook, focusing almost entirely on the three leads played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman. They're a believable band of brothers whose journey attempts to take them from a position of distance and distrust, to one of the close bond that seems to have escaped them over the years, especially with the death of their father and the desertion of their transient mother. A most satisfying viewing experience.

Whip It!:
If this was the 90s, the poster for this flick would be covered with slogans relating to "girl power!", because it is indeed a movie about the Hurl Scouts - a roller derby team of gals (Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore and Zoe Bell among them) who recruit fresh meat in the form of Ellen Page's 17 year-old high schooler who is seeking out her own identity. Alienated by her mother's old school fascination with beauty pageants, she is awed by the world of Texas roller derby in nearby Austin - a huge gear change from her small rural home town.

The material feels fresh, with a script and direction that is full of just the sort of vibrancy and excitement that the world of roller derby must elicit for those involved. It really hooked me in, and I could easily see myself watching it again sometime soon.

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